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Washington Week

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Washington 9, Boehner 5, Syria 5, U.s. 5, Obama 4, Assad 3, Us 3, Damascus 3, Clinton 3, Martha 3, John Dickerson 2, Gwen Ifill 2, Susan Rice 2, John Boehner 2, Kerry 2, Chicago 2, Libya 2, Obama Administration 1, Lib Cania 1, Jay Carney 1,
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  PBS    Washington Week    News/Business.   
   (2012) New. (CC) (Stereo)  

    December 14, 2012
    8:00 - 8:30pm PST  

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, weddings, kids of their own. gwen: what will this mean for the all-too-familiar debate about guns and violence. in washington, the woman who will not be secretary of state. >> i withdrew my name because i think it's the right thing for the country, and i think it's the right thing for the president. gwen: how politics derailed u.n. ambassador susan rice, even as at least one critical foreign policy matter heats up, syria. >> i think the regime in damascus is approaching collapse. gwen: on the domestic front, the slow march towards the fiscal cliff continues. >> i'm pretty confident that republicans would not hold middle class taxes hostage. >> it's clear the president is just not serious about cutting spending. >> covering the week, reid wilson of "the hotline," david sanger of "the new york times,"
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martha raddatz of abc news, and john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news. >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week" with gwen ifill, produced in association with "national journal." corporate funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. to chart a greener path in the air and in our factory. >> to find cleaner, more efficient ways to power flight. >> and harness our technology for new energy solutions. >> around the globe, the people of boeing are working together to build a better tomorrow. >> that's why we're here. >> this rock has never stood
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still. since 1875 we've been there for our client through good times and bad. when their needs changed, we were there to meet them. through the years from insurance to investment management, from real estate to retirement solutions, we developed new ideas for the financial challenges ahead. this rock has never stood still. and that's one thing that will never change. prudential. >> additional corporate funding is provided by -- norfolk southern. additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to your pbs stations for viewers like you. thank you. once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. if it seems like we have been here before, it's because we have. but this time the fatalities
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included 20 elementary school-aged children and 7 additional adults, including the shooter. shocking violence, innocent victims, expressions of outrage and from the president today, a promise to act. >> as a country we have been through this too many times, whether it's an elementary school in newtown or a shopping mall in oregon or a temple in wisconsin or a movie theater in aurora or a street corner in chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children. and we're going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics. gwen: but what if anything can or will government do about it? the newtown shootings provide more fodder for a debate that interestingly enough we didn't even have in the 2012 presidential election. any sign so far anything will be different, reid?
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>> i think there were. i think the signs were those two words president obama used, meaningful action. we haven't heard him talk about actually doing something about gun violence, about gun control in his first four years. instead we heard a lot of discussion about the second amendment and respect for the sort of existing laws on the book, enforcing the existing laws on the book. the only time we ever heard about gun control during the presidential campaign was when he was asked during the town hall debate on long island, and he started out sort of discussing what he would do to ban assault weapons by talking about how important the second amendment was. this now has changed. he's never running for re-election again. he doesn't have to sort of face the political power of the gun lobby. gwen: but he said take meaningful action regardless of the politics. the politics have not changed. >> acknowledgment since gun politic are something of a third rail in the discussion right now.
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i think it's fascinating though to take a look for the first time there's actually money going behind some of the pro-gun control candidates. i spotlight new york city mayor michael bloomberg, who started a super pac this year and started targeting candidates who were targeting maybe unfortunate choice of words there -- trying to go after some candidates who supported gun rights in favor of candidates who were much more on his side in supporting gun control. he actually beat one longtime democrat joe baca in california with a last-minute money dump and now a pro-gun democrat is being replaced by pro-gun control democrat. >> isn't the problem on this issue the people who want to protect gun rights are the ones who really vote on the issue, and that's always been the problem because they're energized, the ones who want to restrict gun rights or have gun control laws are not as motivated. >> democrats remember just how bad the n.r.a. was for them back in 1994 after the assault weapons ban passed.
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n.r.a. went after a number of rural democrats in areas that weren't inside the city and effectively beat a number of them. there are a lot of democrats who still blame the n.r.a. for losing control of the house in '94. >> you mentioned this barely came up in 2012 campaign. it's been very hard to understand exactly what president obama's own position has been on this. but he has been cautious usually in the past not to take the moment of these shootings and use that for a political purpose. it's a very delicate thing. some critics have said if you let the moment pass, you're back to the normal politics. will this play out differently in the next stpwheek >> i think it will. i thought the white house did an interesting two-step earlier today. jay carney, white house press secretary said earlier in the day this is not a time for politics or time to discuss some of these measures. i think there was such an outcry that because of who the victims were here, because they were elementary school children, that maybe now is the time and president obama himself spot
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lighted the meaningful action. i think that was a very telling word. by the way, let's not forget this is the second major shooting in a public place in less than a week. there was a shooting in a mall in suburban portland. that was yesterday -- yet another moment that passed. president obama ticked off the list of tragedies that happened since he's been president. he didn't mention tussin, when former congresswoman gabrielle was shot. >> and he said he wouldn't. >> or ft. hood or binging tom, new york or 400 murders that have taken place in chicago through the end of october. it's not like hasn't had the moment to actually start this conversation. now it looked like he took the first step towards doing so. >> what would the second step somebody where would the debate begin on this? this apparently the man today who did the shooting did not use an assault weapon sofment where does it really begin? where do you go after? >> what president obama said in
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his first term he favors enforcement of existing laws. well, i think the next step is to realize that's not enough, that simply enforcing existing laws that say a felon can't get a handgun don't work if you don't have the sufficient infrastructure for background checks to try to figure out who actually is a felon, who's not supposed to have a gun. it's clear i think the white house or somebody on this side has to -- has to say something to the effect of, we have to take another step. gwen: can i ask you something briefly z. -- briefly, does it have to be out of the white house? does it have to be on capitol hill? >> i think it doesn't exist on capitol hill. it starts with the fact the republican party controls house of representatives and republicans are much more closely aligned with the national rifle association and its agenda then the democratic party, obviously. even in the senate, there are a number of pro-gun and rural democrats. i find it hard to believe a democratic senator from north dakota or montana or basically anywhere in the midwest would
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vote for something that the n.r.a. opposes. gwen: it's kind of like a civics lesson. we will continue with tonight's civics lesson by talking instead about laws, the laws of politics. this week's object lesson, ambassador susan rice, who by most accounts was the president's preferred choice to succeed hillary clinton as secretary of state. that's until she pulled herself out of the running yesterday. >> i made the decision that it was the best thing for our country, for the american people that i not continue to be considered by the president for nomination for secretary of state because i didn't want to see a confirmation process that was very prolonged, very political sized -- politicalized, very distracting and very disruptive. because there are som things we need to get done as a country. gwen: what really happened here, david? sometimes you think what you see is what you get and sometimes it's not quite. >> it's not quite in this case.
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the ostensible reason here is what ambassador rice said on several sunday morning tv shows about benghazi, the attack in libya that ended up costing the lives of four americans. but by the time that whole thing played out, it was pretty clear that she was reading talking points that were put together by the intelligence community. she had very little, if nothing to do with embassy security itself. she happened to be on those shows themselves because secretary clinton had just come back from a trip and said she was too tired to go on them. there was more under way here though. part of it was a little bit of her style, which was very confrontational one and that probably didn't serve her all that well when she went up to capitol hill a few weeks ago and tried to talk this out between senator john mccain, lindsey graham, others who had opposed her. little bit of it was the white
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house i think after president obama came out very strongly in her support. she was afterall one of the first people to sign on to his foreign policy team when he was a pretyim probable candidate. after that, the white house did not come out in sort of a full-throated defense. i think this week she claim to the conclusion they might not come out with that. lastly, this is odd, but some democrats i think weren't super eager to see this battle go on and a few of them thought it really was john kerry's turn. senator kerry, head of the foreign relations committee, is the presumed second choice for the president. he would cruise through in confirmation, we think. there are some democrats who felt his moment should come. gwen: could she have made it through? >> this is going -- >> i know early on i kept hearing oh, she had the votes, she could make it through, but -- gwen: if the president wants to make it a fight, she could win.
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but? >> my guess is and we will never know the answer to this is she probably could have. the question is, at what price to the president? one thing we learned about this president is, he wants to do one fight at a time. he's fight, until the shooting -- his fight until the shootings today was entirely fiscal cliff. >> not about people. >> he may now if there's a gun control argument, that might become the second one. i think he was probably going to put all of these nominations off until the beginning of the year had she stayed in. now that she's left, i suspect he could announce his team next week. >> how far would they have stuck with her had she decided to drag this thing out? >> probably far enough until they could actually count votes and answer martha's question. >> it's hard to know since there was never a nomination on the table. >> that's right. never was and you never had to sit there and count how many would be with her or not. i had a lot of senators say to me they thought in the end where a lot of people have very hard
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time voting against her. she clearly has the background and experience. i have known ambassador rice for 15, 20 years now. you could argue about various things she did or don't when she was assistant secretary for a.f.c. but -- for africa, but she knows her briefings. >> what would there difference be between secretary of state kerry or secretary of state rice? a big policy change for the administration? >> i don't think it's a big policy change of the remember, we're not in the first term here. the major elements of the obama administration strategy, lightfootprint, focus on pulling, no longer doing big, attritional wars but instead focusing on cyber and focusing on drones and the use of special forces and even diplomat approach around the world is one that's pretty well set.
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the difficulty here is ambassador rice knows how barack obama thinks. she's been with him so long, helped form so many of his views that she didn't need many instructions. that's not necessarily the case with senator kerry. gwen: i wonder quickly, i have this thought because hillary clinton is so teflon these days is what happens with teflon, bullets bounce off and maybe hits somebody else. i wonder if she would have been the one on the sunday morning shows we would be having this conversation? >> i suspect we probably wouldn't. secretary -- ambassador rice said yesterday she didn't regret going on those shows but have you to think that given how the whole thing played out, she must have second thoughts about whether somebody else could have done those shows that morning. gwen: wow. there was another sticky situation? this week for the obama administration and that was in syria. the u.s. stepped up missile defense along syria's border with turkey, hoping to stave off the potential use of chemical weapons against anti-assad
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rebels. for the first time the u.s. is formally recognizing rebels' attempt to overthrow president assad and we are at the end game, or are we? martha? >> i think we're closer then we have ever been certainly. i think even two weeks ago there were a lot of people saying this could be months and months and months. we have no idea when this will end. but i think if you look at where those rebels are advancing in damas cass, i think it really could end there. you've got suburbs. you're seeing this extraordinary video coming out of damascus with the suburbs virtually on fire. the thing i think is most frightening about this is everybody, the rebels, regime, everybody is just trying -- destroying everything in their path. then you get into the terrible thing with retribution. you have rebels advancing. you have regime fighting back. but i think asan has to be feeling the pressure. i think he's probably moving from people i have talked to say they believe he's probably
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moving around somewhere in damascus and probably reeling feeling the stress and yet feels great sense of entitlement. but i think we're closer to an end then we've been. you have heard the talk, he's finished. he's finished. for two years -- gwen: as the u.s. tiptoes from the sidelines, as it tiptoed from the sidelines in egypt and tiptoed from the sidelines in libya doesn't always lead to what we had in mind, that is someone who could actually take over. >> most definitely. i think recogning an opposition group doesn't mean they have anybody that they think could take over. i think really what you would see afterwards is as much chaos as you have right now. i think assad would be out of the way and then it would be who's next? and i don't think that is at all clear. >> martha, when you think about what a critical role syria plays, maybe strategically much more important for us then lib cania ever was. if he does fall and if the
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country splits up as some people suggested it may for a while, what does that do? does that give any advantage to iran? could he move in? does it give any advantage to the russians or us? >> everybody is probably trying to figure out exactly what would happen and who would have an advantage afterwards. and i don't think we know. i think it is unclear. certainly you heard russia this week sort of seeing the writing on the wall. maybe our great ally isn't going -- isn't going to stay maybe assad will fall. those were the strongest words we heard, which is another indication that might happen. >> martha, you talked about retribution and the fact all sides will destroy everything in their path. side gets cornered and there's talk about chemical weapons. is that in play, he could use chemical weapons? >> i think that is the absolute key here. two weeks ago -- it was two weeks ago, right, chemical weapons, the u.s. intelligence spotted the syrian regime
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putting chemicals, putting precursors of chemicals in actual bombs and they were near airfields and that scared everybody. that's the day you saw president obama come out. intelligence in the last couple of weeks since then, they aren't as worried but those chemicals can last in those so i think that threat is out. there's nothing that scares the u.s. more than that. he would probably if he used chemical weapons and was backed into a corner used it against his own people but you have also got -- one of the reasons you have patriot missile batteries they're going to move into the area to try to stop and it would only stop chemical weapons if they were on scuds. it couldn't stop them if it was on anything smaller. >> what are the implications of the u.s. moving 4,000 troops and two patriot missile batteries into southern turkey? how does that change anything? >> thousands on the ground -- >> it's not really. i think, frankly, this is more of a political move because i think most of the batteries
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would be quite far away from the syrian border. so it's not -- i think one of the really important things is to see exactly where those batteries would be located, to see if you really could set up a no-fly zone, whether they would be affected. what i have seen so far they wouldn't be and it's more support turkey and more domestic problem for turkey so they want something on those borders. but i think generally, the 400 people on the ground aren't really us putting troops on the ground. they just have to man missiles. >> a lot of borders to protect in syria. we will be watching until we start putting missiles everywhere. thanks, martha. finally to the continuing and apparently stuck negotiations over a deal to avoid tax hikes and spending cuts at year's end. so-called fiscal cliff, good news or bad news when nothing seems to be happening on a week like this, john? >> did depends which of the dramas you're watching. one of the difficulties covering this story is there are two
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dramas. there's the public drama, press releases, tantrums that all signs are giving about how the other side isn't doing any work. and then drama going on inside the room. we don't really know a whole lot about what's going on inside the room. the president met with john boehner for 50 minutes and all we know is it was a frank exchange. usually a euphemism using language we can't repeat on television. but what what is happening in that room and we're not hearing anything and that's a good sign for the things you can squeeze a good sign out of all of this. what that means is they're giving a little. each side is testing the other out. big questions here, taxes. will republicans vote for tax increases versus entitlements. will the president go for big cuts in teen titlements. both saying give a little here therein but they have to do it in private and can't leak. the minute it leaks, the conservatives and liberalless go nuts. gwen: what do we know about what's on the table and off the table? >> the president wants a lot on the table so he wants tax rates to increase.
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he wants some investment spending. he also wants no debt limit fight next year because we're about to have this fight all over again, sort of the sixth chapter in this if they don't get debt limit question removed. that's what the president wants, all of those things. republicans want big entitlement cuts. and the bigger the tax increase republicans have to vote for, bigger entitlement cuts the president has to agree to. >> can we talk about public opinion? i imagine everybody out there saying not again, why can't they come to some agreement? gwen: i think we're saying that actually. >> and you hear people like us saying they're going to do this and it might go over the fiscal cliff a couple days and it will be fine. what is public opinion showing? >> it's in the president's favor and why the president feels so good over at the white house and that's the core of the message in all of the interviews, they feel very confident about where they are and two reasons. one, the public is very much in support of the president's position, and that is to fix -- we will step back. what we're trying to do is the country is headed towards
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starvation diet. that's what the fiscal cliff is. and they're trying to move from a starvation diet to sort of figuring out kind of a weight watchers diet. so at the center the country said to get into the weight watchers plan, we agree taxes should go up on wealthy and spending cuts, balanced approach. if we go over the cliff, if the starvation kicks in, we will blame republicans. these are two things that help the president. but republicans in their district, two-thirds of them republicans brought back to washington with 55% of the vote. they have different constituents. the constituents in those districts, tea party-backed candidates, they want to see taxes not go up. there are republicans who show support republicans for letting tax rates increase but my point here is the house republicans, who are the ones who have to vote for this deal have a different set of political instincts and polls mean different things to them then this big national poll. >> john, if that's the case, let's say that speaker boehner
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comes up with an agreement with the president. what are the chances he can sell this to his own caucus? this is the equivalent question could susan rice have gotten through. it's hard to figure this out. how much is his own caucus with him? >> that's the key question. at the white house they don't have a lot of favor of john boehner to sell this to the republicans in the house and boehner said he wants a majority of the majority and they're republicans. boehner is the only guy they're dealing with y will it be so hard? boehner will have to sell a tax increase. everybody knows this. boehner has privately, according to sources from the democratic side, has agreed to some -- has in these private meetings wasn't supposed to hear about some kind of rate increase. but if he's going to go back to his republicans and those republicans have to go back home to districts and talk to constituents that say why in god's name did you vote for tax increases, they have to see, well, i got this and this will have to be big entitlement change, whether it is increased in the eligibility age or means testing or something, but there
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has to be a big prize on the entitlement side. gwen: quickly. >> what is the private discussion going on, back channel? >> back channel is basically how much are you going to give me in entitlements and president is saying i will not give you things on entitlements until you tell me you vote for tax increase. gwen: see you christmas eve, john dickerson. tell us what's really going on. we have to go for now. we will pick up where we left off in "washington week" webcast extra. find us online still talking at pbs.org/washingtonweek. if you have questions for me, i will be online this coming thursday at noon eastern time. you can also send questions in advance to "washington week" at pbs.org. keep up with daily developments with me over at the pbs newshour and see you again right here next week on "washington week." good night.
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>> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- wherever our trains go, the economy comes to live. norfolk suffolk, one line, feign knit possibilities. >> corporate funding is also provided by -- boeing, prudential financial, and additional funding is provided by the annenberg foundation. the corporation for public broadcasting and by contributions to pbs stations from viewers like you. thank you.
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